a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

11/23/11 Odds & Ends: Carle Rumor, Minnesota, Iginla, Rieder

This article is suggesting that the Philadelphia Flyers are going to be looking to move Matt Carle in the near future, and lists the Edmonton Oilers as one of the teams that might be interested. Ah, the rumor mill. How little sense you sometimes make.

Carle is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent in the off season, which means that whichever team decides to add him will probably be a contender. If the Oilers are still in this spot in the standings before the deadline there's a possibility that the Edmonton will want to bolster the blueline, but Steve Tambellini said that he doesn't feel under pressure to make a deal for a defenseman despite his depleted group.

Nor should he. This defensive group has performed admirably under trying circumstances, and has earned a chance to run with this thing. If the Oilers decide that Carle is a player that they are interested in adding, they can always do it in the off season without having to give up an asset.

Having said that, the Oilers are perhaps one very good defenseman away from having their team finished. The hard part of building the forward battery is more or less done, and the way the defense has been playing suggests that it may be closer than any of us thought. For the sake of argument, let's assume the Oilers are able to sign Ryan Suter in the off season as a UFA. Next year's pairings would look something like this:

Suter - Whitney
Smid - Gilbert
Potter - Petry

Those are three quality pairings that could match up with just about any in the NHL, especially after Petry gets another year of experience under his belt. That still leaves Teubert, Chorney, Plante and eventually Fedun on the farm as callups.

Obviously there's no guarantee that the Oilers will pursue a player like Suter, let alone get him signed, but a top-pairing defenseman appears to be the final large piece of the puzzle.

With Calgary struggling to make up ground in the Western Conference and a playoff spot slipping away, the talk about trading RW Jarome Iginla has started up again in earnest. He's coming off a 43 goal, 86 point campaign last year but the market for Iginla in trade might be smaller than anyone thinks.

Every team in the NHL would love to have Iginla on their roster, but there are other things to take into consideration. A team must have the cap space to take on his $7 million cap hit, or be able to clear the space in a trade. The team must be a contender because that is the only kind of team that will give up assets to acquire him and the only kind of team Iginla is likely to waive his No Move Clause to go to. After the trade is said and done, Iginla must be a clear upgrade for the potential suitor, which limits the number and quality of roster players that are moved for him.

The Washington Capitals could move Semin to clear room for Iginla, but it would take more than a pending UFA to get a deal done. The Buffalo Sabres can clear out the cap space for Iggy, starting with moving Brad Boyes and his $4 million hit, but again the Sabres will need to greatly sweeten the pot. There aren't many contending teams that can take on Iginla's contract without doing a significant roster shakeup. Among those few teams are Chicago ($5.5M in space currently), Detroit ($5.3M), and perhaps the Minnesota Wild ($7.9M). Will one of those teams make a pitch for Iginla if he becomes available?

- While we're on the subject of the Minnesota Wild, it's worth noting how hot their start has been. In fact, they're on top of the Western Conference with 29 points. But, as we've already seen, sometimes hot starts can be a mirage. The Wild have scored the fewest goals of any team currently in playoff position in the West, and the 4th-fewest in the Conference. On the other hand, their 42 goals against is the best in the West and it's due in large part to the play of their goaltenders.

Before this season, Niklas Backstrom had a career Save Percentage of 0.917 and a 2.42 GAA. Before Wednesday night's game, his numbers were 0.935 SV% and a 1.97 GAA.

Josh Harding had a career SV% of 0.915 and a 2.66 GAA coming into this season, but before Wednesday he had a 0.945 SV% and 1.79 GAA this year.

Unless the 6th-lowest scoring team in the NHL can manage to find some offense, they will have a hard time stringing wins together when their goaltending comes back down to Earth. That will be good news for everyone in the Conference, and most particularly those in the Northwest Division. If only Edmonton could win against Minnesota.

- Everyone has a favorite prospect outside the NHL, and Tobias Rieder is slowly becoming one of mine. The 114th overall pick (Rd 4) in 2011 has had a fantastically hot start to this season. He's amassed 18-13-31 in just 23 games with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, after 23-26-49 in 65 games as a rookie. If he keeps it up he's on pace to score 51 goals in 65 games, and collect a total of 88 points. At just 5'10" and 165 pounds his prospects of having success beyond the NHL aren't great, but they will depend on his drive and willingness to do whatever it takes. Hockey's Future lists his compete level as an area of strength, so there's a chance he could end up as a late round gem from the Magnificent Bastard.

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